Back in my mindless spending days, I never gave much thought about what I purchased. If I wanted/needed it and had the money, I bought it. In a nutshell, my entire shopping thought process was a bad one. I was a huge emotional shopper, and my stress and boredom led me to the mall every weekend. My closet overflowed, my heart still felt empty and my frustration grew because I had nothing of real value or substance. And therein lies the rub. I was using my money on meaningless things because it had no purpose, leaving me adrift.
Money is such a part of our lives, whether we like it or not. As I am committed to living an authentic life, it is even more important to me to make sure how I use and think about money is in balance. We don’t always think about money as a relationship but it is. In fact, it is one of the most important relationships you’ll have too. Money will not bring happiness, but how you use it will most definitely affect your level of contentment.
Get Real with Your Money to Live Better
Given how much most people lust after money, it’s somewhat ironic that we also think so little about how we should use it. Let’s see if we can change that.
Give Money Purpose though Goal Setting
For a long time, even though I did not have debt, my relationship with money wasn’t great. It had the upper hand and I merely did its bidding. The switch for me finally happened when I started giving money purpose by setting goals. Full disclosure: I was terribly resistant to setting personal goals, possibly because I never, ever achieved them. Most of the time, I set some arbitrary goals and forgot about them. Sigh.
I still struggle with goal-setting to be completely honest, which is why I won’t pretend to be an expert. But I still keep trying. Sometimes succeeding; sometimes failing but always learning. And what I do know with absolute certainty is that goal-setting made a huge difference in my overall happiness, because:
1. I Know What I Want. Sort Of
Goals are never 100% carved in stone because what you want at 20, isn’t always the same at 40. And that’s okay. I struggled with this concept initially, because I can be very, very literal and it felt like failure if I switched a goal. This is not true — at all. It is, however, so important to figure out how you want your life to look, professionally and personally. It gives you direction and most importantly — allows you to save for something you truly want.
2. I Enjoy Guilt-Free Shopping
I like to shop. FULL STOP. I like shoes. I like designer handbags. I love hot stone massages, facials and pedicures. I like sparkly things. And I am not ashamed. Nor should I be. And nor should you feel bad or wrong for what you enjoy either, regardless of how others feel. I still like all of the above things but no longer buy them on impulse (well, most of the time I don’t). Instead I set money aside for shopping and treats that I use guilt-free because I’m not taking money for something that matters more. It is a part of my plan and budget.
3. I am Less Fearful
I had lots of fake money bravado and pretended to be a boss in my younger days, but deep down I was terrified of being a scared bunny who had unwittingly screwed up her entire life. Dramatic, I know. However, I suspect others harbor similar fears, which is why I share my story. It’s not wrong to be scared but don’t stay in that place either. Finally understanding my current reality and what I wanted my future to look like, I regained control over my money, rather than my fears (and overactive imagination).
Who Can Help?
Like I said earlier, I am not a goal-setting expert. I much more of a goal-setting failure with hopes of becoming a goal-setting winner. This is far too important for me to give you some stock advice, so here are a few posts I recommend on how to set money goals:
- I Want to Set Financial Goals from LearnVest
- How to Set SMART Personal Financial Goals from Tough Nickel
- How To Set Goals for Life You Actually Want by Fast Company
The best advice I can offer you is take goal-setting seriously but not too seriously. In other words, don’t get so caught up in making goals that you become inflexible. As I said earlier, goals change and that’s okay. Sometimes, when you become so rigid, you miss opportunities or force yourself to achieve goals that you no longer even want.
Prioritize Goals Because Not Everything is Created Equal
Harsh, but true. There are lots things we would like to see and do in our lifetime. But most of us cannot do everything we want, due to time, money or some combination. We have to make choices about what matters most, even when it comes to goals. Some goals may be 100% game on, where failure is not an option. Other goals may have less of a tenuous hold on you. It’s important you know which goals matter most and least to help focus energy and guide decisions. To help prioritize goals, a few factors to consider:
1. Why Does the Goal Matter?
This was another problem area for me. As a people pleaser, I used to mimic people’s goals or
set goals I felt that I ought to have versus truly wanted (like buying a home). It’s no wonder why I struggled to achieve goals! Now when I set goals, I ask myself why this goal matters. Sometimes the reasons are terrible, which almost always means the goal really isn’t mine. But with goals that truly matter to me, the why is obvious and for me alone. Every goal needs a why and based on the strength of the why will factor where it falls.
2. Do You Have the Skills to Achieve It?
Sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. And if you don’t, how are you going to obtain those skills? Are you being realistic with yourself? Or is this pie in the sky? I am very guilty of making pie in the sky goals. While there is nothing wrong with making stretch goals (and you probably should), you have to be realistic too or you’ll set yourself up for disappointment.
3. Does It Have a Deadline?
Some goals you can achieve earlier or even later without it being a huge deal to you. Other goals have a concrete deadline, like paying for your child’s college education. Unless you don’t actually have kids yet, your kids will be college-bound in a certain amount of years. The flexibility of your achievement date (and its proximity to now) needs to be considered when prioritizing your goals too.
Giving Money Purpose Builds Your Life Roadmap
This is still very much a work in progress for me. I can still be all over-the-place with goals, but I have stopped censoring myself and dream without judgment. Afterwards, I review my dreams and choose which ones become goals or get discarded, then prioritize them to help me focus my energy. It surprises me, sometimes, how a seemingly random idea may actually become the most important priority, and what seems so deliciously appealing in my mind becomes a dud after some reflection. This is why giving money purpose is so important to me. I often feel adrift, still unsure of my place in this world, and the clarity of knowing how I want to use money helps me pave my path and purpose.
This post is almost two years old. It’s been sitting in draft stage long forgotten but the other day I found it. While I no longer consider myself to be a personal finance blogger, I felt the information was still important and valuable and decided to post it today. It may seem a little off topic from my normal topics, but I hope you find it helpful because money is something that confuses many of us, even though we deal with it every day.
Are you good at goal-setting? What helps you succeed or gets in your way?